State lawmakers on Tuesday night voted to allow the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to implement a Sakonnet River Bridge toll of no more than 10 cents until April while it considers an alternative funding plan over the next several months.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, would implement the toll on Aug. 19. The 10-cent cap would apply to both in-state and out-of-state vehicles. The East Bay bridge connects Tiverton and Portsmouth along state Route 24, near the Massachusetts border. The bridge is popular with out-of-state drivers headed for Newport.
According to a General Assembly spokesman, federal regulations only allow tolling on a bridge if it begins before substantial completion of a bridge project. With completion of the bridge scheduled for as early as August, prohibiting any toll on the bridge until February could endanger any chance for tolling options in the future.
The legislation also eliminates a freeze on toll increases on the Claiborne Pell Bridge, which connects Newport and Jamestown. Removing that restriction allows the quasi-public authority to fulfill its bond covenants, the spokesman said.
Authority officials have said they would not raise tolls on the Pell Bridge.